Despite Monitoring being almost a daily activity for M&E staff in the development sector, most M&E trainings, print publications and online resources deal primarily with Evaluation. Why? Is there nothing to learn about monitoring? Is it so easy?
Granted, many terms and concepts (e.g. theory of change, indicators), and questions (How to get a representative sample? How to visualize data? Are my indicators SMART?) are relevant to both Monitoring and Evaluation. That is because Evaluation and Monitoring have much in common and essentially work towards the same goal: Finding out what works in a program and what does not. But some differences prevail, as the table below by PHINEO summarizes.
The most important monitoring-specific characteristics that call for monitoring-specific discussions include:
- Monitoring is a system: A monitoring system consists of people, procedures and a set of appropriate tools. This system obviously needs to be designed and managed, while taking into consideration that the system is embedded in the overall program structure and shares its resources, staff, rules and tools.
- Monitoring has a longer timespan than an evaluation, as it normally runs throughout the whole program duration. This implies that after the initial design, the system can evolve. The long timespan allows for gradual improvement, trial and error regarding tools or procedures, and for building skills in the team.
- Monitoring is often decentralized, not in the hands of one lead evaluator: This comes with the logistical challenge of coordinating everybody's input. Again, this is a management issue.
Monitoring is a continuous exercise with regular and repetitive steps, For example:
- Monitoring needs to collect and analyze data frequently
- Monitoring gathers data over a long period of time, which results in quite a data mass
- To encourage the use of findings, these must be communicated more often than just once a year in a big report --> These requirements must be reflected in the system’s tools: they should be easy to update, easily used for analysis and to share reports
So far, there is no online platform yet that deals exclusively with monitoring and serves as a “One-Stop-Monitoring Shop” that compiles all relevant concepts, tools and expertise. We want bettermonitoring to become this monitoring hub for practitioners in the international development sector!
Get in touch with us if you want to support this idea and share your expertise with fellow monitoring practitioners!
What to expect from this platform
To give you an idea of the type of content we are looking to generate (with your help!) on bettermonitoring, the following topics are, for example, welcome:
- types of monitoring systems
- standards for monitoring systems (like OECD/DAC criteria for evaluations)
- how to set up a monitoring system
- digital tools that help with various steps of the monitoring process, along with case studies and reviews
- working with and maintaining datasets in databases or Excel files
- how to write a good monitoring report
Examples for other issues that are welcome, although they are equally relevant to Evaluation:
- ethical questions about data collection and handling
- possibilities of digital data collection
- tips for indicator formulation
- how to communicate results
We have clustered the content on bettermonitoring based on the six steps that we promote to guide the building of a monitoring system. These chronological steps are the following:
- Clarify the monitoring system‘s purpose and define its structure
- Formulate results and indicators
- Develop detailed M&E plan and select required tools
- Collect data
- Analyse data
- Use findings
All articles should fall into the category of at least one of the aforementioned steps.
We built bettermonitoring on the following principles:
- We want to focus on practical issues and advise from real life rather than from textbooks: bettermonitoring is from practitioners for practitioners!
- We want to be demand-driven: users can contribute articles, ask questions and suggest topics. The platform’s structure is not cast in stone or determined by us. Instead, it is a living and growing resource that will adapt to the needs of the users. In fact, bettermonitoring is a wiki like Wikipedia. We believe in this collaborative approach and bettermonitoring should become the Wikipedia for monitoring.
- We want to be interactive: As we believe that every practitioner is an expert and has important insights to share, we would love for our users to actively contribute their experience and participate in discussions
Share your thoughts and give us feedback on this concept! We welcome contributions from monitoring experts!